I grew up in West Louisville. I dreamed of raising my family in the beautiful homes surrounding Chickasaw Park and Shawnee Park. I admired the African-American doctors, lawyers, and teachers who were the anchors of our community. I played with the children of my father’s friends, who, like my father, worked in Louisville’s numerous factories. Our parents hadn’t finished college, but the factory jobs they held at General Electric, Phillip Morris, Ford, DuPont, and Brown-Forman paid for the comfortable homes in thriving communities.
My life’s journey took me away from Louisville for almost two decades. Upon my return, the thriving neighborhoods of my youth had transformed into something unfamiliar. Small pockets of prosperity clung to the remnants of a thriving past. Abandoned and vacant properties seemed to be the norm. Entire blocks were marred with the blackened eyes of boarded over homes. They were more than a community eyesore. They negatively impacted the emotional and physical health of a community. The hopelessness associated with boarded up homes can lead to irresponsible choices. The worst of these choices leads to violence. The numerous teddy bear shrines dotting West Louisville serve as proof to this point.
I became concerned about the overabundance of vacant and abandoned properties in West Louisville. I had once lived in Chicago, a city known for its remarkable public art, and there I saw artists transform vacant spaces into inspiring community works of art. I felt public art could be a vehicle for change and growth in West Louisville too.
A friend, who assisted me in transforming a vacant apartment building in Louisville’s Parkland neighborhood into an artistic symbol of hope, heard of Mayor Greg Fischer’s Lots of Possibility Competition. Mayor Fischer was asking residents to submit creative ideas for reusing four lots owned by the city’s Landbank Authority. I founded the West Louisville Women’s Coalition (WLWC) with the help of KMAC board member Chenoweth Allen and local entrepreneur Robin Bray and submitted a proposal. WLWC is a diverse group of nine Louisville women with a mission to create and sustain artistic, peaceful spaces in West Louisville. Our Lots of Possibility proposal would transform a small vacant lot into a Meditation Labyrinth formed from hundreds of bricks painted with inspirational messages from the residents and community supporters of West Louisville. The Meditation Labyrinth was selected as one of the four winners in the competition. Shortly after the announcement, I started my new position at KMAC as an Art Educator and after hearing about the project, KMAC became a Peaceful Partner and provided an artist to assist with the project. After hundreds of volunteer hours, the Meditation Labyrinth, which will be named the Peace Labyrinth, is finally complete.
The Peace Labyrinth will be dedicated, Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 7:00 pm. The lot is located at 3831 Hale Ave, Louisville, KY 40216. The dedication will include a performance by the River City Drum Corps, a message from Mayor Greg Fischer, and a candlelit inaugural peace walk through the labyrinth. This is a free event and open to the public. This dedication ceremony marks the completion of the first step in transforming a vacant lot into an intergenerational community space for peace. It will host monthly peace walks, quarterly visual art activities, and other community programming.
Written by Ramona Lindsey, KMAC Art Educator